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Buffy Season 9’s Finale Arc is Mostly Successful Thus Far, With Some Misses

Buffy Season 9’s Finale Arc is Mostly Successful Thus Far, With Some Misses


Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 9 #22-24
“The Core”, Parts Two, Three and Four
Written by Andrew Chambliss
Drawn by Georges Jeanty
Inking by Dexter Vines
Colours by Michelle Madsen
Executive Producer: Joss Whedon
Published by Dark Horse Comics

Issue #21 of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 9” saw the return of familiar faces Willow and Spike, two characters who started the season off on “Buffy” before each leaving for their own reasons, and then each spinning off in their own five-issue miniseries.

Willow’s quest to restore magic became an unexpected journey of self; while she did not succeed in reuniting the world with magic, she did come to terms to self, and even learned how to produce small portions of magic, herself. Spike’s brief solo stint featured less gravitas; essentially, he needed time away from Buffy after another unsuccessful attempt at trying to act on his romantic feelings for her. William the Bloody then answered Angel’s call for help, and just when it seemed like he was in “Angel & Faith” for the long haul, he received news on the “Buffy” front: Dawn was fading away.

The Scoobies are thick into battle against the Mystical Council led by D’Hoffryn. The absence of magic on the Earthly plane is slowly erasing Dawn from existence, a character whose origin is — of course — deeply rooted in magic (see: Season 5). Buffy, Willow and Xander must now race against the clock to restore or create a new Seed, and they know just the location to go: the Deeper Well. A legion of mystical and supernatural beings sought to protect the Deeper Well are doing just that, and battle breaks out between them and Buffy and Willow. Georges Jeanty’s drawings here are electric; the battle scenes this arc are the most detailed and finely drawn of the season. And enhanced by Michelle Madsen’s colours, these pages couldn’t possibly look better.

3160993-23aThe comic cuts from the climatic epic battle back to Dawn’s apartment, where she’s sickly pale, and slowly forgetting who she is as well as everyone around her. Her scenes with Spike are tender and unexpectedly emotional, but when Spike becomes aware that his memories of Dawn are fading, the drama elevates to an intense degree; these are the series’ most effectively emotional scenes since Buffy’s pregnancy/abortion storyline all the way back in issues #6-7.

Unbeknownst to Buffy and Willow, Xander had plans with Severin and Simone. Mad at Buffy, and not trusting her enough to be able to save Dawn, Xander gave the bad guy duo directions to the Deeper Well’s secret entrance. Should their plan work, the timeline after the Seed was destroyed would be erased, restoring magic, and essentially, saving Dawn. What they really have planned though threatens all of existence, and D’Hoffryn grants Buffy and Willow access to the Deeper Well, to stop Severin and Simone.

One of the season’s biggest flaws is its lack of threatening antagonist, and the Big Bad duo still don’t feel like a real menace, when right now is most important that they do. Severin and Simone are two poorly developed characters, and while it’s been a while since they “teamed up”, they still do not feel right together. Spike and Drusilla they most certainly are not. They’re rarely even in the comic, their motivations (which are different) are vague and unconvincing, and their only dialogue is to service their actions; what they plan to do, and how they plan to do it. We never see these characters speak like actual people; they are nothing more than cardboard cutouts with the word “EVIL” written on them in red marker. Andrew Chambliss has generally done well in writing the major characters in their proper, familiar voices; Buffy, Willow, Spike, etc. Where he falters is writing characters who debuted after the TV series ended, and thus, were never depicted in live-action. There’s no familiar actor to assign with these characters, and perhaps it makes writing them a little more difficult. Severin and Simone are both devoid of any depth, and it hurts this final act in a significant way.

s9 24Xander’s arc has been another sour mark in Season 9, especially in this finale. He stuck to the background for most of the early and middle part of the season, with the occasional scene with Dawn that seemed to paint a picture uncomfortably familiar to domestic abuse; thankfully, the comic did not go down that path. Xander is still angry, though, and it is a little hard to see this character in a constant state of discontent; someone who’s been a beacon of light throughout “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” up to Season 9. To see him lose trust entirely in Buffy and to scheme against her even seems viciously out of character, unprovoked; not the Xander Harris who has always been there for Buffy for the previous eight years. Seeing him written in such an unflattering matter, it would have been better had Xander stuck to the background for the entirety of Season 9.

The flat characterizations of Severin and Simone and ugly out-of-character writing of Xander aside, “The Core” has been a generally good finale; though it helps that the standards going in were quite low, because of the awfulness of Season 8’s Twilight endgame. It’s great to see Willow and Spike in the pages of this comic again, and their scenes are consistently highlights. Willow steals the penultimate issue, #24; it even manages to make her into an even more awesome character than she already was. Watch out for Illyria in this arc too, too; she comes back in a satisfying way.

Season 9 is not quite finished yet. The final issue comes out September 11th. Let’s hope it’s a great one.